The food as bad for you as a bacterial infection

Inflammation is a sign your body is trying to heal itself from something harmful, like an infection or injury. But sometimes your body’s inflammation response is triggered even when you haven’t contracted a nasty bug or taken a bad fall.

It’s triggered by something in your environment or lifestyle that your body perceives as a threat — like junk, processed and fast food.

These foods are setting off inflammation alarm bells in your body like crazy. And your body is responding to them as if they’re dangerous pathogens. It’s sending out immune cells and activating an inflammation response hoping to rid itself of these foreign food items.

Need proof?

Check out how the body responds to fast food…

Your body doesn’t stand a chance against a fast food infection

A study from researchers at the University of Bonn found that the immune system reacts the same way toward fast food as it does toward bacterial infections.

In their study, researchers put mice on a diet that mimics fast food for a month. The diet was high in unhealthy fats, high in sugar and low in fiber.

After eating this way for a month, mice developed a substantial inflammation response throughout their bodies. They had an increase in immune cells like granulocytes (white blood cells your body releases to fight bacterial infections) and monocytes (white blood cells that kill microorganisms). Researchers said the immune response was similar to how the body responds to a bacterial infection.

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Researchers also found that eating an unhealthy diet changed mice on a genetic level. It changed genes in their progenitor cells (similar to stem cells), which impacted these cells’ ability to reproduce and grow. Once mice returned back to their regular diet, their inflammation response went away. But their genetic reprogramming stuck around.

Researchers also examined blood cells from 120 people and identified a component in immune cells that recognizes unhealthy food when you eat it and stages an attack. It’s a danger sensor called an inflammasome. Inflammasomes send signals between cells when they sense harmful substances, like fast food. These signals tell cells to go into inflammation mode.

Researchers say these inflammasomes trigger genetic changes too. And over time, they reprogram genes to initiate a strong inflammatory response to smaller and smaller stimuli. That means the more fast food you eat, the more likely you are to end up with an immune system that’s gone rogue.

Eat foods that squash inflammation, not support it

If you’ve stopped eating healthy, it’s best to get back on track now before chronic inflammation gets a stronghold in your body. And when you’re tempted to go back to eating poorly, just ask yourself…

Would you intentionally infect your body with a dangerous bacteria?

Of course not! So why would you eat food that’s just as hard on your body?

Give your body a break and eat foods that are easy on your immune system and inflammation response — so your body can reserve these helpful tools for when it really needs them.

Anti-inflammatory diets, like the Mediterranean diet, make your immune system’s job easier, because they don’t include Franken foods that cause your immune system to react unnecessarily. But really, any diet that includes lots of whole foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, high quality meat, etc.) and avoids processed and sugary foods should do the trick.

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  1. Everything you need to know about inflammation — Medical News Today. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  2. Fast food makes the immune system more aggressive in the long term — MedicalXpress. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  3. Christ, et al. “Western Diet Triggers NLRP3-Dependent Innate Immune Reprogramming.” — Cell, 2018.
  4. Granulocyte — Medline Plus. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  5. Monocytes — PubMed Health. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  6. Foods that fight inflammation — Harvard Medical School. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and